I learned a valuable lesson.
One that I should have already known.
I went to the Lady Vols vs the Razorbacks a few weeks ago, and the guy in front of me was decked out in USC gear.
Lets not quibble about why this guy felt he needed to wear USC gear to a game that did not feature that team in anyway, on a campus of a school USC does not play, in a conference that USC's coach lit out of.
All of those items must be set aside for now. Because with my mother, wife and daughter in tow, and all bedecked in orange he began baiting me.
"Thanks for the Coach!" says he grinning. I don't know this man from Adam. Why he should smile at me I do not know. "We'll be chanting his name when we win the championship next year! Hope the SEC enjoyed its run!"
Before my wife could stop me, I uttered: "So why in bloody hell are you even here?"
Coaches come and go.
Over 20 years of watching college football and the one constant, the one thing that College ball offeres that the NFl can not is consistent and regular change.
Players graduate. Coaches move on. Get fired. Create dynasty's. The rivalry is what becomes the constant. The anger one team generates towards another. The slights that we feel are infringed upon us on the playing the field.
Be it a field of wood, concrete, water, or some form of grass those slights burn long after the player or coach whom inflicted them have gone on their merry way.
In many ways I feel this sets college ball apart. Sure free agents go to multiple teams, and players are traded. But they are still playing.
We get a limited time with these players. They have only a finite amount of time to make their mark on our team, our culture and our world. The greatest we follow after the fact. Others we hear making car commercials in years later.
Fandom becomes a career, a religion, and a rite.
That finite amount of time makes that perceived injury far greater than the actual offense. The pain hurts more, the disappointment more bitter and foul tasting in our mouths. The anger more disconnected, more complete.
So here I am faced with a individual whom wishes to use that in so many ways against us, and like many fans would do I rose to the occasion. I could feel the primal, redneck urging creeping up the back of my neck. The bafflement upon the offenders face as my accent went Hulk like from friendly go lucky southern boy to I-might-just-rip-off-your0face-and-River-dance-it-in-Mud-hole-until-its-dry reaction, a change I hadn't and usually don't pick up on but never fails to make people think I am some kind of raving sociopath whom has been turned loose on a unknowing and unwitting society.
Two small hands pulling at my wrist pulled me away from the dark abyss I nearly leaped in to feet first and willingly. My daughter knows the changes well, and does not like them.
As a recent Alabama fan found out we have choices we can make. Sure we all find it funny. We all laugh. I did when I saw the news.
But for one instance, one second lets place ourselves in that situation with those whom know us, work with us, love us, respect us and how would we react? Would we talk him down? Encourage him? Find some other humiliation? One that would not, necessarily put us on the 6 o'clock news?
At what point do we, as fans, cease becoming fans and turn in to degenerates that should be measured by a ranking system similar to EDSBS Fulmer Cup?
When do we cross that line? What gives us that little nudge? That push off in to the chasm?
The fact is: it doesn't matter really in the grand scheme of things.
Monday will be a work day. Tuesday will be class and the bills are due on Wednesday. Mom will be in the hospital at some point and little Susy will stub her toe and want you to kiss it and make it better. We'll play Xbox until August hoping for a shot, a bowl game or more.
Lucky for myself, the offender backed down, whether due to my family or myself I won't attempt machismo and say. As the handful whom have met me will validate I'm more of the corner of the bar genial type soul.
But the question lingers still, and with the arrest made and the poor sod's face plastered across the nation I ask is this what we want our sport known for?
The poisoning of tree's? The public sexual harassment of fans?
Is this how we want to represent ourselves overall?
Life goes on.
By all means, hate Alabama.
Hate LSU. Hate Florida.
But respect our foe's for their accomplishments. Respect them, for they succeeded in the injury that caused that hate and we failed. Is it begrudging respect? Of course! But don't fall in to that trap of ridicule or outright senseless violence to prove us better than them.
Because by doing so we only belittle our own standing, and the hate becomes not something that is only harboured in the season, but travels beyond stadium walls. It is why our teams have armed escorts, snipers on buildings and bomb dogs prior to arrivals in many cases, for players who make not a dime for the effort and work they place on a field that may leave them battered, broken, or worse. For any sport. Anyone old enough to remember Munich in '72?
Let us be like the boxers of old.
Meet in the middle. Shake hands.
A clean fight gentlemen and ladies. A clean fight.
After the famed Thrilla in Manilla a victorious Muhammed Ali said of the beaten Joe Frazier
"He is greater than I thought he was.
"With a style like he has to be great. Only he could get away with it, be successful with it. Any other fighter outside myself would have been beaten by him.
"We’re a couple of old war-horses who have made a lot of money together. Without him I wouldn’t be the man I am today and without me he wouldn’t be he wouldn’t be who he is."
"I’ll never fight him again though. It’s too hard.
"I tell you this. If I had taken the punches he took, I'd have gone home much earlier."
A clean fight.
Respect our enemies.
Honor the beaten.
Savor the victory.
Save the foolishness for World Cup riots.